KayEm moved to comfort Helena who knelt beside Augustus with wracking sobs tearing through her body. Pisky took a surgical gown and covered the
legate's face, picking up the half empty cider bottle and placing it in his cold hands. "I don't know where you are going", the pixy said, "but a
drink is always welcome". He stood and muttered a prayer for the soul of Augustus who, in his dying moments had give them information which could
well save the lives of many.
Walking over to the stricken Helena, he placed a hand on her shoulder, adding his own strength to that of KayEm. Helena looked up, took a deep breath
to steel herself, and stood, smoothing her rumpled gown and tucking away errant strands of hair. Her face was white but had an expression of strength
that neither the pixy nor his wife had ever seen there before.
"This place stinks of death", she said, regaining her earlier haughty demeanour. "And my people need to know what has been going on. If you're
agreeable, I say we should leave now. Drop the roof on those vile things and get home !"
"I couldn't have said it better", agreed the pixy.
"Of course not", said Helena, and for the first time this day, a smile crossed her face.
As Helena left the utility room, Valerius went to greet her. "He's gone", was all she said, the pain in her eyes speaking more eloquently than any
words. Valerius rubbed his eyes;. He felt tired and out of place.
"I'm sorry", he said. "I should have stayed with you".
"You were right about Augustus, you know", came the sad reply. "But even knowing what he did still doesn't take away the pain of losing him like
that". She took a deep breath. "There'll be time for mourning later. Once we have done what we need to do". She lifted her head regally, "I'll
go up and pull the lever".
"No you won't". KayEm was adamant. "You've lost too much blood. You're weak, tired and in shock".
"You have no ..."
"I understand your need to do this", interrupted KayEm, "I really do. But you just won't make it".
"I will ..." Helena flinched at a stab of pain through her arm.
KayEm was having no more argument. "I'll go", she said. "The rest of you get down the tunnel and out".
The pixy shook his head. "Feck that idea", he said. "you don't like heights. From what I remember of the layout and what Augustus told us, the
escape hatch will bring you right through the rock and out on the clifftop. You won't like that at all".
KayEm shivered, remembering the time that she had refused to climb the Astoria Column in Oregon because it was so tall. That was before the corporate
takeover. Still, the pixy was right. She couldn't bear heights.
Pisky shook his head. "I'll do it", he said. "Though I'll need someone at the door to make a distraction if any of the fecking things see what
I'm up to".
KayEm grinned and hefted her purloined weapon. "That's sorted then".
Slowly and as quietly as possible the group left the cold room with its grey occupant and began to head towards the tunnel. Pisky considered looking
for the main entrance, but since time was of the essence they decided to go back the way they had originally came in. Helena was flagging, and having
to lean on Valerius for support. As they passed a particularly mangled corpse, Helena staggered and would have fallen had it not been for the
legionary who picked her up and carried her along without breaking stride.
KayEm checked the damaged doorway leading to the tunnel. It seemed quiet but as they had learned, appearences were deceptive. Leading the way, she
scanned the tunnel before waving the others to follow.
The tunnel was colder than she remembered it and a rancid stench of rotting meat met her sensitive nose. Pisky listened intently. "Something's up",
he whispered, moving towards his wife and drawing his pistol. LadyCool and Sarah did the same. The hairs on Phoebe's back stuck up like porcupine
quills and a low growl came from the dog's throat. LadyCool picked her up and held her muzzle closed.
As quickly as possible, KayEm lead them farther down the tunnel towards safety. The problem being that in order to reach
safety, they had to
pass the chupacabra cavern. Not only that, Pisky had to actually enter
the cavern, reach the manual destruct and activate it before escaping
And now it looked as if the chupacabra were waking.
As they reached the torn open doorway to the cavern, KayEm held up her hand. After listening carefully, she ushered LadyCool and Sarah past the
opening. They were followed by Valerius who carried a now sleeping Helena. "Go on !", whispered KayEm as she noticed LC and Sarah waiting at the
other side of the doorway. Needing no more bidding, the pair turned and started away.
KayEm looked over at the pixy who was checking his pistol. Her eyes shone like beautiful tiger-eye gemstones and her long red hair made her look more
like a Celtic goddess than a human being.
Pisky looked into her eyes and grinned. Taking a deep breath, he put his pistol back into its holster swiftly lest his wife notice that his hands were
shaking. Even pixies aren't immune to fear.
"You know what to do", said KayEm, lifting her weapon and checking the rounds left.
Pisky nodded his head, leaned and kissed his wife and with a pixyish grin, stepped over the damaged dooway and into the cavern.
It was cold. It reeked like an abbatoir and whatever he was treading on felt wet and slimy. Keeping himself close to the right hand wall, the pixy
crept carefully along, all his senses on alert. Outside, KayEm stood, the barrel of her rifle aimed into the darkness, ready to give any aid she could
to her husband. Strange snuffling noises came from Pisky's left. He stood stock still. The noises ceased.
The height of the cavern made each step he made, each wet squelch , sound like the crash of waves on a rocky shore. More noises came from deep inside
the tomb like cavern. The chups were waking and Pisky needed to hurry if he wanted any chance of success. In the faint light of his torch he could see
what looked like a metal ladder leading into the darkness above. Sighing in relief, he picked up the pace. Within a few seconds he had reached the
ladder. Within a few more, he was about fifteen feet up in the air, heading to what he hoped was the room containing the emergency destruct device.
A terrifying screech shook the air, Pisky yelled abuse as he almost lost his grip. Looking down, he saw a chupacabra emerge from the darkness, the
creature hissing maniacally as it began scrambling up the ladder towards him. "Feck this !!!", the pixy muttered as, hanging from one hand, he
reached down and unholstered his pistol.
He fired, but his position on the ladder meant that his aim was wild and missed the target by inches. Muttering abuse, he locked his arm around one of
the rungs and fired again. Once again he missed. The chupacabra leaped upwards and lashed out, catching the pistol and tearing it from the pixy's
"Bastard !!!!", Pisky ranted, kicking out at the creature with his feet as he reached for his Pictish Sword.
The chupacabra lunged. Using his sword like a dagger, Pisky rammed the shining metal through its screaming maw of a mouth and into its brain. The
chupacabra gurgled once and fell, taking the pixy's sword with it, still embedded in its head. Ranting foully, Pisky began once again to climb. It
wouldn't be long before more chupacabras came and he was now weaponless.
He shouldn't have been so concerned. With a warrior yell KayEm started blasting through the doorway. Explosive concussions shook the air mixed with
the screams of chupacabras caught in the fire of KayEm's weapon. More and more explosions, more and more screams. And higher and higher the pixy
climbed until he could climb no more. A metal trapdoor blocked further advance; It was similar to those seen in submarines with a circular locking
mechanism and fortunately was well maintained. Pisky had no problems opening the trap door, clambering into the small space beyond and recognising the
self destruct equipment.
Closing the door to ensure he was not distracted during his mission by nosy chupacabras, the pixy looked around the room. Directly across from the
entrance was a small console with a lever protruding from the right hand side. Next to the console another metal ladder led to yet another trapdoor.
Pisky crossed the floor, climbed up the ladder and checked the exit. It, too, was well maintained and the wheel spun easily. Satisfied, the pixy went
to the console, removed the safety clip and, with a quick Cornish prayer, pulled the lever.
A countdown began on the console. 2:00 ... 1:59 ... 1:58 ... 1:57 ...
Pisky clambered up the ladder and opened the trapdoor. Beyond that was another metal ladder leading upwards, lit by small green lights that could be
seen at intervals of about three feet.
Cursing, the pixy rushed up the ladder, the sound of his feet echoing around the chimney-like space.
1:10 ... 1:09 ... 1:08 ...
Up and up the pixy climbed. Higher and higher.
0:45 ... 0:44 ... 0:43 ...
Pisky was tiring. Not much more to go though. Maybe he should have let KayEm do this after all he muttered with a pixyish grin.
0:10 ... 0:09 ... 0:08 ...
He saw it. Another trapdoor. Hopefully the last one. With an effort, the pixy clambered ever higher.
0:03 ... 0:02 ... 0:01 ... 0:00
And in the chupacabra cavern, the ceiling fell in.
KayEm heard the shaped charges blow. With a final burst of gunfire, she moved from the doorway and began running down the tunnel towards the exit. A
massive rumble shook the walls as thousands of tons of rock fell from the ceiling of the cavern, throwing dust into the air to rush down the tunnel.
With a shriek, KayEm was struck in the back by something hard and thrown to the floor. The walls and floor shook as in an earthquake. There was dust
everywhere, it was almost impossible to see and breathing was difficult. "Just as well I gave up smoking !", she said as she struggled to her feet
and picked up her weapon. Taking a handkerchief from her pocket she tied it around her mouth and began trudging back towards the cave entrance.
Valerius sat atop his horse with Helena resting in his arms. Sarah was muttering abuse as she scraped a disgusting looking dog turd from her boot,
courtesy of Phoebe who was looking quite pleased with herself. LadyCool stood beside her horse, checking the harness in preparation for the off.
A rumble came from the cave and dust rushed out, colouring the area grey. LadyCool's horse reared in fear as something dark leaped through the dust
cloud, landing beside the stricken creature. Neighing in fear the horse lashed out, almost hitting LC who only managed to avoid injury by leaning
backwards, tripping over a tree root in the process. With his eyes rolling in fear, the horse snapped the reins that had been keeping him fastened to
a tree branch, and galloped away into the woodland.
The attacker was a chupacabra. Twice the size and twice the intelligence. Its eyes were jet black and soulless. Long sharp fangs glistened in the
light of the setting sun. Its claws were strong enough to rip steel like paper. It was the C3, the Uber-Chupacabra. And it was heading straight
Sarah and Valerius were having their own problems. Their horses, although not as close as their equine companion was to the chupabacra, were
nevertheless petrified. They bucked and neighed in desperation, doing all they could to get as far as possible from this unnatural creature.
"oh shiet !", LadyCool said as she pulled herself upright, fumbling for her pistol, her hands shaking in a mixture of fear and desperation. The
creature shrieked, the sound sending shivers down the spines of all who heard it. A black shape flew from the undergrowth and slammed into the
monster, giving LadyCool time to run. Phoebe snapped at the chupacabra, her fangs locking around the skin of its neck as the terrier clung grimly on.
Breathing rapidly, LC began scrambling up the rock face of the escarpment. Half way up, she turned to see the valiant hound still hanging on to the
enraged chupacabra. "Phoebe !!!", she shouted, "Run !!!".
Seeing her mistress relatively safe, the dog released her grip and bounded away, hoping to lead the creature away. The chupacabra hissed at the
fleeing hound, took a few steps in the direction Phoebe had ran, then decided that it would rather pursue the visible target, that being LadyCool.
"#tonastick !!!", LC muttered as she watched the creature start towards the bottom of the escarpment. Looking upwards she noticed a single tree at
the edge of the cliff about seventy or so feet above, but apart from that, nothing. No rocks to push down on the chupacabra, no white knights ready to
battle the fearsome dragon for the fair maiden. "Bugger all", she muttered, then started climbing again.
A very dusty looking pixy dragged his aching bones out of a long, chimney-like shaft leading deep underground. Kicking the trapdoor shut, he lay on
the soft grass breathing heavily and cursing in his native tongue. A hideous shriek made him sit up, reaching for his pistol. Not there. Neither was
his sword. Both buried under thousands of tons of rock. "Fecking hell !", he muttered. "Now what ?"
Walking carefully to the edge of the cliff, the pixy looked down. "Oh Bollocks !!!", he spat as he saw LadyCool clambering desperately up the rocks,
followed by the largest chupacabra he had ever seen. The pixy looked around. Nothing. Not rocks, no weapons. Just a lone tree on the edge of the
cliff. No way to push that
over onto the creature. But maybe ...
Pisky ran to the tree. Its springy branches were just what he needed. No time to cut one off and make a spear, but maybe the tree itself could help.
Looking down, he watched as LadyCool climbed higher, followed by the unnatrual creature that sought her life. LC was straining, her breath coming in
sobs as she forced herself upwards.
Her hands reached grass. She pulled herself up. The chupacabra was close. Too close.
She looked up. Her mouth opened in an 'O' of surprise. Pisky stood before her, leaning against a tree branch, desperately trying to keep it from
springing back to its rightful place.
"Drop !!!" yelled Pisky as the chupacabra heaved itself into view. LadyCool did so just in time to see Pisky release his grip, the branch springing
back to slam into the chest of the creature as it did so. The chupacabra shrieked in shock and frustration as the branch catapulted it into space. It
scrambled at the air, trying to grab hold, but to no avail. Gravity took the unnatural creature and cast it to the earth.
Leaning over the cliff edge, Pisky and LC watched as the creature plummetted to the ground. It lay there for a while, its arms flailing, its shattered
body leaking vile black nutrients into the earth until with a groan it gave up the ghost and lay unmoving.
Just as the pair had reached the safety of solid ground once again, a dust covered KayEm staggered out of the cave, coughing and retching. Seeing the
pixy, she grinned and handed him her rifle while she upended her saddlebag, removed a bottle of water and poured the lot over her head. "Grey hair
just doesn't suit me", she said with a smile, before leading the way back to Butser.
The Next Morning
Caligula sat on his newly made throne and looked around the room. Roman Law demanded a trial, and the Emperor was duty bound to preside. On his left
facing him, Helena sat on a couch accompanied by LadyCool. The advocate was dressed as before, in pink, but instead of a little pink hat, she sported
a barristers's wig on top of her blonde locks. On Caligula's right sat Tiberius Simplex. Couches were scattered around the room, occupied by various
people ranging from Pisky and Kayem to the child Gaia, all required to attend according to the law.
Caligula held up his hand for silence. He scanned the room for any evidence of the dog or the kitten. Satisfied that neither were present, he opened
the proceedings. "In accordance with Roman Law, we are here to deliberate upon the guilt or otherwise of Helena Justina Flaminius, accused of murder
against the will of 'Senatus Populusque Romanus' - SPQR - The senate and people of Rome".
He looked over at the smirking Simplex; "Let the prosecutor begin".
Simplex stood, saluted the Emperor and began. He spoke of the night Actaeonis was discovered dead, with Helena Justina's knife embedded in his chest.
He spoke of how Helena was late to the feast that night and of how she fled during the attack of the beasts, making her flight appear to be the result
of a kidnapping. He spoke like a politician, lie after lie flowing from his mouth like sewer water from a pipe.
Once done, he grinned in supposed triumph and returned to his seat.
Caligula then turned to LadyCool. "You may deliver your defence", he said, leaning back into his throne and steepling his fingers. LC smiled at
Helena and stood.
"I have a story to tell", she began, "That starts before this village was built, and hopefully ends today. It is one of love and hope, treachery
and horror, but in the end all will be well for the people of Butser".
She strode across the room to stand directly before Caligula. "You all believe that Butser was built and populated in order to make a TV series. You
think that your tasks, be you slave, freedman or Emperor were to act out your lives in the same manner as your Ancient Roman forebears. You think that
the beast attacks were accidents - that the creatures just 'happened upon' the village." LadyCool turned to the assembled throng. "You are wrong.
On all counts. And on many others, although it is no fault of your own". Caligula leaned forward, the better to hear this revelation.
"It began with a man you know as Augustus who, at the time of his death. made full and frank confession, which according to Roman Law is is allowed
as evidence". Caligula nodded his head.
"There were three witnesses to his final words, and each is here today to confirm the truth of what I am about to tell you, as is the child Gaia, who
saw Helena's abduction". She waved to Gaia, who grinned happily. "Now, for the tale ..."
LadyCool spoke eloquently, explaining the plans and experiments of those who sought a One World Government, the creation of the Butser settlement, the
chupacabras and Augustus' part in the saga.
She spoke of Helena, of KayEm, Pisky and the rest of the group, of their final battle with the chupacabras and their destruction. And she explained
the part Actaeonis played, of his pangs of conscience and of his plans to tell all, only to be struck down. And finally she turned to Caligula.
"Roman Law can no longer touch Augustus and Actaeonis. But there is one who would still betray you should you allow him to do so. With his dying
breath, Augustus told us the name of the final traitor. The true murderer of Actaeonis. A man who worked with the One World Government to bring terror
and death to the people of this village. Pisky ... please inform this court the name Augustus gave you".
Pisky stood, all eyes upon him. "The name given to me by Augustus, the name of his companion in death is ... Tiberius Simplex, Centurion of the
Caligula leaped up, his mouth wide with shock. Simplex glowered at the pixy and slowly got to his feet.
"This is pure hearsay", he said. "There is no concrete proof".
"Of course there is proof", said LadyCool, "Apart from Augustus' testimony. We discovered your instructions. Orders that Augustus sent you after
he returned to the facility. Pisky went through your kit while you were ensconced with your drinking buddies last night. There is enough there to hang
you three times over".
", the Praetorian yelled and with a single bound was towering over the child Gaia with his sword at her throat. He swiftly picked
her up, tucking her under his free arm. "I'm off ... Feck you lot. And if anyone tries anything I'll finish the kid !", he said. Gaia started
crying. The sharp sword was cutting into her flesh. Her mother was screaming. KayEm stood, her eyes blazing.
A small grey and white shape flew through the window, landing smack on Simplex's back. The Centurion bellowed in pain and anger as Pillywiggin
slashed at his neck with small kittenish claws.
Reaching for the cat, Simplex dropped his hostage, who rushed into the welcoming arms of her mother while KayEm approached the ranting Centurion.
"If there's one thing I absolutely detest
growled KayEm, "Its a bully !" And with that she smashed the treacherous Praetorian in the jaw
with an uppercut worthy of Tyson. Pillywiggin leaped away as Simplex slammed into the ground, shattering a couch in the process. He was still sitting
there spitting broken teeth when Valerius and a pair of legionaries came to take him away.
"Thank you for everything you have done for us". Caligula said as he stood beside the visitors outside the Villa. Their task was completed and they
were ready for home. "I have done as you requested, and have let the village know of your offer to take with you anyone who wishes to leave. I have
also decreed that henceforth there will be no person - man, woman or child - held in slavery. The Roman Empire was built on slavery, but things are
different now. There will be no more slaves. Each person will work for the good of all, each free and each able to rise to higher ranks if they so
Pisky nodded his thanks. "As for Simplex", continued the Emperor, "I am unbending. He betrayed the people of the village and will be punished. As a
Roman citizen, he would either be given time to depart the realm, or be executed by strangulation. However his crimes were so heinous that he has
forfeited all rights as a citizen. He is therefore to be executed as a common felon, in the appropriate manner".
Sarah and Asala shivered. They didn't want to think of what was to happen in a few short minutes.
Helena and Valerius approaced the group. "I know you offered to take us with you", Valerius said, "But our place is here. We're used to it now
and its what we know. Caligula has made me Centurion of the Praetorians and Helena is going to teach the new freedmen how to speak and write
Helena smiled. KayEm walked over to her and they embraced like sisters. "Don't forget to write", she said, "Although not in Latin, please".
Little Gaia rused across, holding Pillywiggin in her arms. The kitten was giggling as usual and his tail was tickling the girls nose, making her
sneeze. "Here's Kitty", she said once the sneezing bout was over. Pillywiggin leaped out of her grip onto Pisky's saddle, where he made himself
comfortable inside a well packed saddlebag. Pisky ruffled the child's hair and smiled before leaping onto his horse to join the kitten. KayEm and the
others mounted their steeds and looked around. It wasn't home, but they would miss this place, especially now that the danger was past. The Stokesay
group had gained four more people, ex slaves who had decided to take Caligula up on his offer. The rest had preferred to stay and rebuild the village
in the way it should
have been in the first place.
Caligula wished them godspeed. Valerius performed a Legionary salute while Helena lifted her undamaged arm and gave a little wave. Pisky nodded,
turned his horse and led the way out of the village, past a hastily cut stake which lay on the ground beside a freshly dug hole.
They had just reached the woodlands when the screaming began. Pisky halted and looked back towards the village. In the light of the setting sun a
terrifying shape could be seen. Shaking his head, the pixy turned his eyes away as Tiberius Simplex, ex Centurion of the Praetorians, was